Auma's confession: Traditional vegetable pays my bills

Rose Auma at work (Photo. Courtesy)
NAIROBI, KENYA: When Rose Auma started selling traditional vegetables 43 years ago, she never thought it would attract any clients let alone competition.

As a young and pretty 27-year-old girl with a bright future, Auma travelled to Budalangi for fresh produce to sell at korogocho where at that time, there was no competition at all.

“I love traditional vegetables especially saget and mitoo but I couldn’t find them in Korogocho market,” she said.

“I was the first person to sell kienyeji in Kisumu ndogo but only moved to the main korogocho market after 20 years due to stiff competition,” she told citybiz.

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Auma says she travelled all the way to Budalangi to get mboga because, “I didn’t know of any other place.”

Her maiden trip transported amaranth (terere), mitoo, saget, black night shade (managu) and cowpeas from Budalangi to Nairobi. She did these upcountry trips for a whole decade before discovering the outskirts of Nairobi.

Moreover, farmers from Busia stopped growing Kienyeji due to unstable climate and opted for cotton and tomatoes.

Auma soon shifted her market to Ukambani, Kiambu and other areasclose to Nairobi.

This mboga business has been the pillar of Auma’s growth. She has educated her eight children single-handedly after the death of her husband. On a good day, she takes home Sh3,000 - Sh3500.

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And like they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Four of her kids have taken up the mboga business in other parts of the town.

“They grasped the business as I would from time to time let them run the show,” she said adding that, “Sometimes they would come here straight from school. I never thought, they would develop interest in selling mboga.”

Three of Auma’s sons who studied up to college own a car wash and mini super market built from selling kienyeji.

The business requires basic accounting skills but more of experience of differentiating between vegetables grown from sewer water and the healthy ones.

Auma taps customers from as far as Buruburu, Ngumba, Saika and many other city estates.

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Her long stay in the market has made her learn different types of traditional vegetables from different tribes.

“Every tribe is represented,” she told Citybiz.

At 63 she maintains her customers by supplying fresh vegetables.